You have better things to worry about during the holiday season than how your kitchen equipment will perform when you're whipping up a celebratory meal. You have time now before the big feast, so do yourself a favor and check out what you have on hand. If your cooking toolbox could use some sprucing up, take a look at these great gadgets.

P.S. Some of them make good gift ideas, too.

1. Ginsu Chikara knives

A good knife may be the most important piece of equipment in your kitchen—and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune. At about $75, this 8-piece set is a great value and a Consumer Reports Best Buy. The cutting performance and comfort level are at the same level as sets costing three to four times as much. While the set doesn’t have a slicer (carving knife), it does have a santoku, a cross between a chef’s knife and a cleaver, that will give you a perfect carved turkey or roast.

2. Calphalon Simply Nonstick 10-inch pan

Has the nonstick pan in your cabinet become “sticky?” If so, pick up this inexpensive but high-performing pan. A Consumer Reports Best Buy (about $40), it scored Excellent for even cooking and food release and Very Good for ease of cleaning.

3. Cutting board

Inspect the boards you have, and get rid of any with deep scratches where bacteria can hide. You need at least three boards: one that’s dedicated to raw meat, one to chop vegetables, and one for cooked meat. Consumer Reports’ food safety experts recommend you choose one made out of polypropylene or another dishwasher-safe material for raw meat, but for produce and cooked meat, it’s your choice.

If you use a wooden board, wash it by hand in hot soapy water after you use it. To remove odors, rub the board with half a lemon and rock salt. Rinse and then give your wood board a little conditioning by rubbing the lemon rind over the board.

4. Meat thermometer

Consumer Reports’ tests show that digital thermometers are the most accurate. With an instant-read model, all you have to do is turn it on and stick it in the meat near the end of the estimated cooking time. If you don’t want to keep opening the oven door to check the temp, opt for a leave-in model. It stays in the meat recording temps via a long cord and sending them to a countertop base unit. The CDN Proaccurate TCT572 was the best of the instant-read models we tested. The downside is its $80 price. Another smart pick at $18 is the Polder Stable Read THM-379. For leave-ins, we like the $45 Oregon Scientific Wireless BBQ/Oven AW131

5. Tongs

Possibly the handiest kitchen tool around, tongs can be used to flip meat or vegetables, serve salads, sauté foods, juice citrus, plate pasta, reach to grab something in the back of the oven, and so much more. Silicone tipped tongs can be used with nonstick pans. A pair that locks in the closed position makes for easier storage.

6. Roasting rack

Add a rack to your roasting pan and the bottom of your roast or bird won’t be soggy. Racks help with even cooking, browning, and crisping. Get a nonstick one to make cleanup easier. 

7. Kitchen twine

Trussing your turkey or tying up your roast is all about presentation—key if you want your guests to ooh and aah when you present the main course. Poultry wings and legs stay close to the body and roasts hold their shape during cooking. Be sure to use only twine specifically sold for use with food, made out of cotton or linen. Synthetic materials can melt into your food.  

8. Storage containers

The best part of Thanksgiving? Leftovers. Make sure you’ve got somewhere to put them. Opt for glass or BPA-free plastic containers. Consider, too, buying a pack of disposable containers so you can send your guests home with the fixings for a terrific turkey sandwich.

—Trisha Calvo

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